What 'Les Miserables' Manila stars think of 'powerhouse' Rachelle Ann Go
MANILA, Philippines – From starting out in the Philippines as a pop songstress, to making her way to London's West End, Rachelle Ann Go has her way of charming with song. Now, she's back in Manila for the local run of Les Miserables.
In her latest turn as the tragic, ill-fated Fantine, she has commanded the stage and disarmed with such a raw and soulful performance of "I Dreamed a Dream," among other numbers in the musical.
The Manila edition has premiered to full houses and standing ovations each night, and Rachelle has been elated to show her hometown her stunning take on the iconic character. "Overwhelming yung pakiramdam 'cause, you know, nandito ako sa hometown. This is such a dream come true for me, playing Fantine also," she said in a round table interview after a special media call.
(The feelings are overwhelming 'cause, you know, I'm here in my hometown.)
However, Rachelle added that being in the Philippines has its own challenges. She said, "Mas feeling ko na nape-pressure ako dito sa Pilipinas eh. Kasi ang mga Pinoy, very talented at magagaling kumanta […] Plus, everyone knows the music of Les Miserables, so bawal magkamali. Bawal ako mag-flat, mag-sharp, so feeling ko kailangan perfect." (READ: Rachelle Ann Go's important tips for taking career risks)
(I feel that the pressure I'm feeling is even greater here in the Philippines. Because Pinoys are very talented and skillful singers […] Plus everyone knows the music of Les Miserables, so I can't afford mistakes. I can't go flat nor sharp when I sing, so I feel that I need to be just perfect.)
In spite of the challenges, she looks at each show as an opportunity for something new. She said, "Nandoon yung pressure, of course, pero every night mas nae-excite ako mag-perform, parang, 'eto na naman, bago na naman ito. And this is a new production. This is different from the one I was doing in London, so it's something new. It's fresh for me."
(There is pressure, of course, but every night, I get even more excited to perform, like, here we go again, here's something new.)
Her colleagues in the Manila company – who have starred in the Australian and UK productions of Les Mis – have said that they are very impressed by the Filipino singer and actress.
The Jean Valjean of the Manila production, Simon Gleeson, said while the cast was still in rehearsals: "It’s clear why Rachelle is so loved here, as a human being but also when you see her working, when you see her Fantine.
He adds that he sees why Rachelle's countrymen are proud of her. "It’s also nice to have someone local here, it’s nice that there’s such great interest in Rachelle here, it’s really deserved, I think. I completely understand why the Philippines is so proud of her," he said.
"I get the pride, I completely get it, especially as a human, but also as Fantine." (Sneak peek: Rachelle Ann Go sings as Fantine, see the amazing 'Les Misérables' cast)
Kerrie Anne Greenland, who plays Eponine, gushed: "She is the sweetest person, we’re so lucky to have her – well you guys are so lucky to have her representing your country. She’s a beautiful personality, beautiful voice. She’s just so lovely."
She also said that she is also thrilled to get a chance to sing beside her at one point in the musical: "I get to sing with her right at the end at the epilogue like you saw [in rehearsal]… it’s exciting for me to be right next to her."
Emily Langridge, who plays Cosette, echoes her castmates' praises for Rachelle. "She's amazing, and she's just such a beautiful person," she said in a round table interview.
"And again, you know, being from the Philippines, she's so passionate and just sings with so much heart. To see her in the wings rehearsing 'I Dreamed a Dream' every night is unbelievable."
Beside her, Kerrie Anne Greenland (Eponine) and Paul Wilkins (Marius) couldn't just help but agree: "Yeah, all of that!"
Chris Durling, who plays Enjolras, the charismatic leader of the Friends of the ABC, is impressed, too. "She’s petite, but she's like a powerhouse – really strong voice," he said in an interview while the cast was still in rehearsals.
Chris also adds that Rachelle could show them around the Philippines: "You know, I've only been here for a couple of weeks, so hopefully, once the show opens, she can kind of show us some of the sights."
At their gala premiere, as with the preview nights, the Manila company – led by Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean, Earl Carpenter as Javert, and the Philippines' own Rachelle Ann Go as Fantine – received yet another standing ovation.
After the cast took their bow to a thrilled audience, Cameron Mackintosh, veteran theatrical producer, and Claude-Michel Schönberg, composer and co-creator of Les Misérables, went onstage to thank everyone in attendance.
"Thank you, thank you all so much. What an amazing, wonderful company we have here and a brilliant orchestra. I would like so much to thank the marvelous stage crew and everyone here in this theater, and my great creative team for putting this all on tonight," said Cameron.
Claude-Michel recounted an early visit to Manila in the 1980s, when they first met Lea Salonga, who went on to be the first Kim in Miss Saigon.
"When we auditioned Lea Salonga, the first song that she sang for us was 'On My Own,'" said Claude-Michel. "So we realize that far away, there is a country where already Les Misérables was popular work [sic]."
"After [Miss] Saigon, she did Les Misérables – she did Eponine, she did Fantine – so did Joanna Ampil, she's with us tonight, you know, with Rachelle."
"For being so kind with our work for many, many years, I just would like to say, salamat po, Pilipinas (Thank you, Philippines)," he added.
At the after party held after the gala premiere of Les Mis, the cast enjoyed themselves, especially after months of hard work and in the middle of their performing season.
Rachelle's colleague and friend, Erik Santos, also attended and expressed his pride for her in this Instagram post:
Have you seen – or will you be seeing – Les Mis in Manila? Tell us what you think about Rachelle's turn as Fantine in the comments. – with reports from Wyatt Ong and Paolo Abad/Rappler.com
More about Les Misérables in Manila:
- WATCH: Rachelle Ann Go sings 'I Dreamed a Dream' from 'Les Misérables'
- WATCH: 'Les Misérables' Manila cast performs 'One Day More'
- WATCH: Jean Valjean in emotional 'Les Misérables' Manila scene
- WATCH: 'Les Misérables' cast performs 'One Day More,' finale at rehearsal
- Sneak peek: Rachelle Ann Go sings as Fantine, see the amazing 'Les Misérables' cast
- 8 reasons to watch 'Les Misérables' in Manila
- [About the Manila cast] Driven to tears: 'Les Misérables' in Brisbane
- Rachelle Ann Go's important tips for taking career risks
- Confirmed: 'Les Misérables' coming to Manila, Rachelle Ann Go to star as Fantine